THE MOST DIFFICULT HIKE IN THE U.S.

Most people don’t think of Florida when they think of amazing hikes. The sunshine state is also, perhaps, not what hikers think of when they think of difficult hikes. True, Florida is mostly at sea level, so there’s not a ton of elevation gain and loss, and the air is quite thick and rich with oxygen. And true, it boasts temperate weather most of the year. But let me assure you, I completed the most difficult hike of my life, right here in Florida a few weeks ago.

Birds, and other fauna abound in the Big Cypress, a massive part of the Everglades ecosystem.

Ellen and I try to winter in Florida every year, like every other 65+ person in the U.S, because of course, we both appreciate the weather. She loves the Gulf beaches, and I love the abundance of critters, and challenging landscapes to photograph.

This year, I decided to make it a goal to section hike the Florida National Scenic Trail (FNST or simply FT), a 1300 mile span of the entire state. I wanted to explore this diverse and beautiful state, and to get my hiking and wilderness fix, in spite of the season. I figured to do it quite passively, with no real end date in sight. We only spend a few months every few winters here, so I wanted to approach the task realistically. I wish I had read this article by Outside first, but alas, I only found it after while researching some info for this post.

If your hiking NOBO (northbound) on the Florida Trail, you start at the southern terminus, at the Oasis Visitor Center in Big Cypress National Preserve. This is known as the most remote, most dangerous 31 mile section of the entire 1300 miles. Great way to “get your feet wet.” I would come to find that expression translates literally in this case.

It is recommended to take three days to do this section, so of course I decided to make it an overnighter. The first day I planned to do 17 miles from the start at US 41, and the second day, 14 miles, with Ellen picking me up at the end of my section, I-75 (Alligator Alley), at 5PM.

February is considered the “dry season,” however, I only found about 3-4 miles out of the 31 to be actual dry land. The rest of the hike, I was in 6-18 inches of water and muck.

The Big Cypress section of the FT is known as one of, if not the hardest hike in the U.S.

This is prime alligator and snake country. And with temps reaching 87 degrees during the day, it is not uncommon to come across reptiles in Big Cypress, even in February. Many dangerous and some venomous.

Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are just one of the venomous snakes commonly found throughout Big Cypress.

Thankfully, I only came in close contact with a water moccasin once. But the opportunities abound.

The orange blazes marked on the cypress and pines help to keep the hiker on trail, when the trail is not always so visible.

It is a truly haunting and beautiful landscape though. Vast cypress strands with bromeliads create hanging gardens to slosh beneath. Your eyes are constantly tilting down, watching the murky waters for danger, then glaring up to make sure you still see the orange blazes, on many stretches, the only indicators of your trail. To top it off, there is almost no shade on the entire hike.

Only a few miles in this realization hits… your exposure to the blazing sun is profound and inescapable. Even in winter.

The cypress swamps are beautiful gardens teeming with amazing plants and animals.

Lovely wildflowers dot the swampy landscape, even in winter.

After deciding to stop several times the first day well short of my 17 mile goal, I came across two guys hiking SOBO (southbound). They told me that if I could make it the 3-4 more miles to 13 Mile Camp (confusing, because if hiking NOBO, it’s actually 17 miles in) I would find dry land on which to comfortably camp and a large trail maintenance group that was giving out water.

I had underestimated how much water to bring, so this info came to me as the best motivator possible. Of course I brought my filter, but I can assure you I only wanted to drink the water I was sloshing though as a last resort. So I pushed on.

I reached 13 Mile Camp with a few hours of sunlight to spare. I started my hike a bit late that day at 10AM, and reached the 17 mile mark at 4:30PM. I won’t lie, I was completely exhausted. My feet were sore from the constant post-holing up and down through deep mud. My shoes never got dry on the entire hike.

But I made it.

It is not at all uncommon to stumble upon alligators on this section of the Florida Trail.

The trail crew could not have been nicer. They were camped only a quarter of a mile or so away. They gave me as much water as I wanted, and so I alleviated the symptoms of dehydration I was already showing. I stumbled back to my lonely camp and crashed. The anxiety for tomorrow, and the warnings for what lie ahead from the trail crew swirled in my thoughts. I had told them I made it this far in one day and that I planned to do the rest of this section tomorrow, and I saw the looks they gave one another. Their lack of confidence in me was palatable.

Trekking poles are a must if backpacking the Big Cypress section.

When I got reception for a moment the next morning, I called Ellen to tell her to plan on not picking me up today… I would need another night out and a half day to complete this section. I felt a bit defeated.

I’m comfortable tackling 15-20 miles at high elevations, carrying 50 lbs on my back. Here, I was at sea level, carrying only 35-40 lbs. How was it that Florida was kicking my butt already?

Yet, I pressed on. One step at a time.

That’s the “mantra” I use when a hike seems too difficult for me… “one step at a time, Andrew. Just one. Step. At. A. Time.” It’s become a lovely metaphor for life for me. When trials come, disaster hits, despair takes hold… “one step at a time, Andrew. Just one. Step. At. A. Time.”

I know it’s cliche, but hiking/ backpacking really is an uncanny metaphor for life. You have your mountaintops and moments where you are overwhelmed by all of the beauty, and then the long, seemingly never-ending uphill slog, when you feel like you can’t take it anymore. And all you have to do is put one proverbial foot in front of the other. And then again. And again. Until, eventually, you reach the mountaintop again, and take your rest.

The birds of Big Cypress are plentiful and fascinating.

Sunrise and sunset in Big Cypress are worth all of the pain and misery.

Birds (and water) are the only constant companions on this lonely section of trail.

Day two was a test of will. It was definitely more challenging than day one. The submerged swamp sections grew longer and more maze-like, the water deeper, the mud more viscus. I nearly fell several times, which could have been incredibly defeating. If you are considering hiking this section, and I do realize that’s unlikely after reading this post, may I suggest trekking poles. I would even venture to say that this hike wouldn’t be possible without them.

Even through several miles of being slowed to one mile per hour, I was actually making good time. I couldn’t believe it. My “one step at a time” mantra was working.

I got reception and hurried to call Ellen. I was already going to run out of water again if I stayed another night, and I was beginning to see the possibility of finishing as planned on day two. My will to finish was kicking in. The mosquitos, wet feet, and difficult steps were enough at this point to propel me forward to unending fresh water, my bed, and an escape from the bugs.

Starting at 8AM, I was able to make it to the finish line ahead of schedule, at 4:30PM.

I hit the pavement of the I-75 rest area, tossed my pack to the ground and immediately ripped my soaked, muddy shoes and socks off. It was one of the best feelings to know that I accomplished what I set out to do. Ellen pulled up with the pups only a half hour later, with a victory beer in a beachy coozie.

So I’m sure you are asking yourself “why?” Rightfully so. Ellen asked me several times before and after. And I think the best answer I could  muster was that sometimes the hard things, the things that haunt our dreams and cause us to worry… the things that we fear, the unknown… these are the things we must confront. For confidence in ourselves and our abilities, but also to force ourselves to rely on God for strength and protection. Tasks that just seem too tall for us to take on, are the best places for us to dig deep within ourselves to find strength we didn’t know we even had. And more than this, to look outside ourselves for help when we realize we don’t actually have the strength to go on.

The current level of comfort in our age betrays us.

When I get the “why” question, I often think of JFK’s speech about going to the moon. And I find it apropos as people look at me like I’m crazy when I place myself in challenging and difficult, and sometimes even dangerous situations.

How else can you measure a man, if not to put him to the test?

We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.” ~ JFK, 1962

When asked immediately after finishing by a tourist pulling up, “how was it?” I told him I wouldn’t recommend it.

But now, several days later, I actually might consider doing it again. And I actually would recommend it… only to the resilient… with eyes wide open.

–Andrew

If you enjoyed this article and found it helpful, consider joining me on the adventure of a lifetime to learn so much more. I offer workshops and tours in many of the worlds most incredible locations, and on these trips, you will get tons of one-on-one time to ask me anything. In fact, I’m offering $250 off my Big Bend Wildflowers + Stars workshop coming up in March, for a limited time. Let me help inspire you to become the artist you’ve always wanted to be! 


Ellen and I hit the road full-time in June of 2016. We are on a mission to inspire and educate everyone on the importance of getting outside. Check out my workshops and my prints. The revenue will help propel us further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our public lands are cherished and to keep the wild spirit of the American Dream alive. Our goal is to visit all 60 National Parks in 3-5 years. We are currently in year 4 and half way thru the Parks. LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT WE’RE DOING HERE



N O M A D  Magazine // Issue 1
 
Order your copy today and receive this 100 page full color travelgasm at your door!
 
Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
BIG BEND // WILDFLOWERS + STARS
GRAND TETON // FALL COLOR // LANDSCAPES + WILDLIFE
TELLURIDE // FALL COLOR // LUXE LANDSCAPES
 
I’m excited to announce The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Teton National Park
 
If you are interested in purchasing a “print from the road”, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew Slaton // Prints From the Road
Andrew Slaton // Canvas + Metal Prints
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew Slaton
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2020

SCOUTING IN THE EVERGLADES

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

An often overlooked aspect of photography is the time and energy needed to focus on pre-production.

Pre-production is a term we use in commercial photography. It’s the time leading up to the actual day of the shoot that we spend in preparation to iron out all of the details, so that the shoot can run smoothly. It really is no different with travel and landscape/ nature photography… Perhaps just a little less involved and stressful.

So, for the initiated and uninitiated alike, I have several tips. The first and foremost is the importance of scouting.

From “boots on the ground” experience in years past, I knew this shot was possible, so this year I waited for the prime conditions and was rewarded.

Scouting involves time spent researching locations; utilizing the web, books, social media, and “boots on the ground.” So where to start? Well, let’s take an example location and walk through my process. How about the Everglades, since I’m currently looking at this amazing place outside my window!

Preparation, I have often said, is rightly two-thirds of any venture.” ~ Amelia Earhart

Knowing from research that this was an area in which I could get close access to american alligators from a low angle, I was placed in the right scenario to catch a dragonfly resting on this gators head.

When I first visited Everglades National Park as a naive college student back in 2000, I did almost no research. As a consequence, I had an amazing adventure, but came away with very few decent images (and really those few were only by chance). Any photographers worth their salt will tell you that scouting is one of the most important ways to improve consistency in outcome. Really, this principal applies to everything. Preparation is one of the most important keys to success in any endeavor.

Learning from research that dragonflies are plentiful in this part of south Florida, I envisioned this shot months before it materialized right in front of me.

There are several effective ways to scout. Some more effective than others. Here, I’ll run through my list of methods…

First, know how to read maps. More specifically, topographic maps. This seems to be a bit of a lost art these days. With GPS and Siri, many younger folks have lost the ability. Reading contours, elevation changes, and even directions are very important if you want to scout before you even reach the location. I always either purchase a physical map, or download the 7.5 min USGS topos for free to my phone via the Avenza Maps app before beginning the scouting process. Properly reading a top map will help you identify potential areas of interest before reaching a location. If you do not feel comfortable reading a map, I recommend this great video by REI.

I had an idea to show human/ wildlife relationships in the Everglades ecosystem. After chatting with a friend who had heard from a park ranger that this alligator was hanging around a popular lake for kayakers, I was given my opportunity.

Next, I scour the internet for images of the place to which I’m traveling. Google image search and social media (specifically Instagram) are excellent places to start. Search geo tags of your location to get ideas and to visualize what images you would like to capture on your trip. Now, be advised that this can take a little discernment on your part, as some people incorrectly tag images. However, it should give you a broad sense of what is possible, and it will help you to create your ever important shot list. You will likely find many stunning captures when researching, so make notes of the specific locations that catch your eye. This may take a bit of diving, as some images on the web are a bit more cryptic with the location info, and for good reason. Blogs tend to have a lot of good info, so that may be a likely place to start.

Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” ~ Alexander Graham Bell

There are only a few places in the U.S. to see the endangered American Crocodile. Proper pre-production led me to this fruitful location to get close enough to nature the reptilian eye.

Many photographers though, myself included, have become a bit more tight lipped about specifics in recent years. This is because of the massive spike in travel, and more specifically, photo-tourism, causing locations that used to be quiet, clean, and cherished by professional photographers to become overrun, trashed, trampled, and disrespected by the masses seeking their “trophy shot.” Rest assured, if you point-blank ask a photographer where a particular image was taken, they will almost certainly ignore the inquiry. After a short stint of widely sharing location info broadly over the web, it appears as though we’re back to the age of investigation to find places. And I’ve come around to think that is a better way.

Checking out (at your local library), or buying books on your location is one of the old, time-tested ways of scouting as well. Purchasing is especially helpful if you want to take them with you and if you plan to visit these locations again and again. However, when I’m researching on the cheap, the public library is invaluable! There are several good guidebooks that are specifically oriented to photographers, like The Photographer’s Guide To The Everglades by M. Timothy O’Keefe, for example. There are several in this series, so unless you are planning to visit a very remote location, chances are you will find a suitable guide to give you some ideas.

Guidebooks and previous in person experience gave me the knowledge that purple gallinules can be observed closely on the anhinga trail. I wanted an overhead shot to show the incredible feet of this colorful bird.

The Photographer’s Ephemeris and Photopills are both excellent apps that will help you to figure out whether your specific shots will be best at sunrise or sunset. This is an important step in the research process, as it will insure the best use of your time once you arrive.

At this point, you should have enough specifics and general info to create an extensive shot list. I start with specifics, images that are in my head that I want to achieve first and foremost. Then I add more general shots that I’d like to achieve. Since I’m a pro, I’m also thinking through different ways to make money with my time, so I will often list stock shots, creative projects, video clips, etc. Here is an example of what that might look like to give you an idea. I recommend printing this out before leaving for your adventure, that way, if you think of other shots, you can easily manually add them with a pen or pencil. Also, there is still some scouting to be done once you arrive!

Now that your shot list is made, and you have arrived on location, scouting moves into the “boots on the ground” phase.

Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” ~ Bobby Unser

Great blue herons can be surprisingly skittish. I knew I wanted a detail shot if the feathers which would require a closer shot even with a 400mm lens. I found the right location to make this shot through research.

Believe it or not, it’s a good idea to visit the gift shop (or tourist shops nearby) and scour the postcards/ posters/ prints for more inspiration and clues. This practice is often rewarding, if only for inspiration. But sometimes a location or image idea will present itself when you least expect it.

Now is the time to use your map reading skills and spend the midday hours exploring. Drive, kayak, walk, fly your drone (where legal) to get a first-hand look at these lovely places you’ve been researching from afar. Note the challenges they might pose so you can be prepared when you return for the good light. And don’t forget to take your camera along! I know it sounds dumb, but depending on where you are, some great photo opportunities may present themselves to you even in the midday hours.

I’ve shot this particular location several times, but always at sunrise. This year, I decided to hike in the midday hours around it to see what a sunset shot might yield. I was again rewarded for the scouting effort.

This article should give you a road map to prepare better for your photo excursions, whether you are a newer pro or a hobbyist. I can assure you that Implementing these strategies is guaranteed to increase your rate of success.

Just like with anything, success comes to the prepared!

–Andrew

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

If you enjoyed this article and found it helpful, consider joining me on the adventure of a lifetime to learn so much more. I offer workshops and tours in many of the worlds most incredible locations, and on these trips, you will get tons of one-on-one time to ask me anything. In fact, I’m offering $250 off my Big Bend Wildflowers + Stars workshop coming up in March, for a limited time. Let me help inspire you to become the artist you’ve always wanted to be! 


Ellen and I hit the road full-time in June of 2016. We are on a mission to inspire and educate everyone on the importance of getting outside. Check out my workshops and my prints. The revenue will help propel us further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our public lands are cherished and to keep the wild spirit of the American Dream alive. Our goal is to visit all 60 National Parks in 3-5 years. We are currently in year 4 and half way thru the Parks. LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT WE’RE DOING HERE



N O M A D  Magazine // Issue 1
 
Order your copy today and receive this 100 page full color travelgasm at your door!
 
Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
EVERGLADES // LANDSCAPE + WILDLIFE
BIG BEND // WILDFLOWERS + STARS
GRAND TETON // FALL COLOR // LANDSCAPES + WILDLIFE
TELLURIDE // FALL COLOR // LUXE LANDSCAPES
 
I’m excited to announce The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Teton National Park
 
If you are interested in purchasing a “print from the road”, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew Slaton // Prints From the Road
Andrew Slaton // Canvas + Metal Prints
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew Slaton
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2020

METAMORPHOSIS: PART 1

Originally posted on December 15 at the Red River Paper Blog.

I’ve learned that stagnation often seems to be the natural state of humanity. But this is not how people thrive… it is merely how one survives. And Ellen and I need change.

Light changing as the sun drops behind the Tetons in our summer/ fall backyard.

Dallas in December is a crap shoot. For many reasons, really. First, the weather is often all over the place. Blustery and in the 40s one day, and the next, 75 and sunny. It wreaks havoc on my allergies. Also, we spend most of the year away from the masses and when we arrive in Dallas for the holidays, we are bombarded with work, social events, and family.

The breakup on Jackson Lake occurs with the changing of seasons from winter to spring in May and June.

Have I mentioned that we have 11 nieces and nephews between Ellen and myself? Well, with all those human interactions, not to mention those with illness-incubator kiddos abounding, I always get sick. Weakened immune system from under-exposure the rest of the year or simply the time of year, who really knows what’s to blame. Regardless, the holidays are a time of warm reception for us, but also extreme exhaustion.

I’ve escaped to Lake Whitney in central Texas, where Gertie is parked, to write this episode and recover from the busyness of city life.

“Have I lost the ability to live in the city?” I ask myself this question every year. I grew up in a city, but I’ve always felt drawn to the rural, quiet life. As time passes, I feel much more at home in our little Wyoming town of 2,000 than in the urban/suburban sprawl of nearly a million-and-a-half I’ve called “home” for 30ish years of my life.

With the ushering in of spring, deep greens and blues are the dominant colors of the landscapes in Wyoming.

The reason I bring all of this up is simply that as I reflect on the last leg of our nearly four year journey, this theme keeps surfacing: city vs. open country. The change seems inevitable for us.

Life on the road is not as romantic as you might think. I was criticized by one reader of this blog early on that I focused too much on the trials and disappointments of our new, transient life. Fair denunciation. Maybe I focus too much on the negative. Perhaps the struggle is a bit more interesting to some of us than the vapid mountaintops. I tend to think we learn more from failures than successes.

But it is abundantly accurate to say that the highs we experience on the road serve to inspire us and remind us that life does, in fact, grant us beauty and reprieve as well as truth and trial. So let me give you a little of both.

Light glides across the landscapes of Wyoming, constantly changing.

Our view from Gertie for much of May and June this year.

A mountain bluebird perched with the Grand Teton as a background.

Snow was falling in Wyoming last May when I wrote my previous installment. Spring is basically a more dramatic yo-yo-ing version of winter and it lasts through June. We agreed to manage (with the option to buy) a small tourist shuttle business for a friend this summer.

Great Outdoor Transportation Company (GOTCO) has been servicing our little area of Wyoming since ’97, shuttling people and their vehicles throughout the Wind River mountains, anglers up and down the Green and New Fork Rivers, and tourists and locals alike to and from Wyoming airports.

The dramatic metamorphosis of the Wind River Range in spring.

Skye darts into a seasonal pond created by the massive amount of runoff.

As summer begins to take hold, lupine abound across the prairie.

The momentarily changed landscape, scarred from the Boulder Lake fire of 2019.

Our home for the summer near the Wind River Mountains.

There was a ton of work to do to get ready for the season. Vehicles to buy, insurance to set up, employees to hire, marketing/ social media strategy, not to mention just learning a new business. It was a wee bit stressful for us, mostly because we weren’t used to moving at any pace other than our own.

But Ellen and I also had to learn how to be business partners, which created challenges of its own. I also realized I would have to set my own photography business aside for a time to focus on this new venture. What happened next gave us a whole new skill set and was far more rewarding than we ever thought possible. [To Be Continued in Part 2.]

–Andrew


Ellen and I hit the road full-time in June of 2016. We are on a mission to inspire and educate everyone on the importance of getting outside. Check out my workshops and my prints. The revenue will help propel us further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our public lands are cherished and to keep the wild spirit of the American Dream alive. Our goal is to visit all 60 National Parks in 3-5 years. We are currently in year 4 and half way thru the Parks. LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT WE’RE DOING HERE



N O M A D  Magazine // Issue 1
 
Order your copy today and receive this 100 page full color travelgasm at your door!
 
Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
EVERGLADES // LANDSCAPE + WILDLIFE
BIG BEND // WILDFLOWERS + STARS
GRAND TETON // FALL COLOR // LANDSCAPES + WILDLIFE
TELLURIDE // FALL COLOR // LUXE LANDSCAPES
 
I’m excited to announce The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Teton National Park
 
If you are interested in purchasing a “print from the road”, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew Slaton // prints from the road
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew Slaton
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2019

Up The Eastern Sierra

All the world lies warm in one heart, yet the Sierra seems to get more light than other mountains. The weather is mostly sunshine embellished with magnificent storms, and nearly everything shines from base to summit – the rocks, streams, lakes, glaciers, irised falls, and the forests of silver fir and silver pine. — John Muir

The Sierra Nevada topped my bucket list ever since I first laid eyes on Ansel Adams’ and Galen Rowells’ photographs. While studying photography in college back in Austin, I was exposed to images that awoke a sleeping giant within me. An adventuresome spirit that began to show inklings when I was a tiny creature going on camping trips to Colorado with the family, became a force I wouldn’t be able to suppress.

Instead of our typical winter in Florida, we decided to explore the deserts of Arizona and Southern California. It was glorious. Those will warrant separate blog posts, but for this post, I’ll focus on California’s famous Highway 395.

I have to confess… I planned this whole past winter with the idea in mind that I would finally get to road trip up 395 along the eastern Sierra in the spring.

I can say with confidence that we were not disappointed with any portion of this leg of our nearly four year journey.

The flowers were just beginning to bloom when we arrived at Alabama Hills. The nights were still quite chilly, but the days began to warm, unless the wind was blowing, of course.

The Sierra loomed large and still nursed large swaths of snow.

Spring storms would roll in every few days to add another awe inspiring visual to the magical light of these mountains.

I was mesmerized by the sandstone formations and abundant desert flora. Endless photographic opportunities.

As we worked our way up, we made it to Bishop, a quaint little town. It’s a unique mixture of old conservative ranchers and dirtbag hippies. It seems to work, in a strange cultural yin and yang. I’ve only found that in one other place, and we made that town our “home.”

There’s something so balanced about having two opposing lifestyles like that in a small town that’s immensely appealing. Maybe it’s because I grew up idolizing cowboys and the old, conservative pioneer spirit. And with Boomers for parents, I knew the good side of the hippies and “free spirits” too.

We lived off the grid in the deserts surrounding Bishop for free for several weeks, as I explored the area with my feet, my truck, and my camera.

I was struck by how much it reminded me of Wyoming. Sparse, vast, open, rugged. Drop-dead gorgeous.

After our time in and around Bishop, we headed up to Mammoth and Mono and the land of the hot springs.

I made a few reptile friends along the way, of course.

The original plan was to go all the way up to Truckee and then head east back to Wyoming, but the unfortunate gas prices, and hell, frankly the price of everything in CA caused us to bail a little early and head over to Nevada for a few weeks before our return to WY.

So we have a little unfinished business along Highway 395. But in all, we spent six weeks exploring this remote American gem, and it will forever now hold a place in my soul. It is unique in it’s landscapes and the people it attracts. It is our kind of place.

So much so, we made a little fam portrait at the end of our time in the eastern Sierra.

It was a wonderful first visit, and I feel certain it won’t be our last.

–Andrew


Ellen and I hit the road full-time in June of 2016. We are on a mission to inspire and educate everyone on the importance of getting outside. Check out my workshops and my prints, made #ontheroad in my mobile print studio. The revenue will help propel us further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our public lands are cherished and to keep the wild spirit of the American Dream alive. Our goal is to visit all 59 National Parks in 3-5 years. LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT WE’RE DOING HERE



N O M A D  Magazine // Issue 1
 
Order your copy today and receive this 100 page full color travelgasm at your door!
 
Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
EVERGLADES // LANDSCAPE + WILDLIFE
GRAND TETON // FALL COLOR // LANDSCAPES + WILDLIFE
TELLURIDE // FALL COLOR // LUXE LANDSCAPES
 
I’m excited to announce The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Teton National Park
 
If you are interested in purchasing a “print from the road”, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew Slaton // prints from the road
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew Slaton
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2019

N O M A D // magazine

After three years of living and working on the road, I am so excited to announce that I have put together a wonderful magazine for all of you wanderers, dreamers, and adventurers out there! This 80+ page full color, photography heavy publication focuses on the lovely faces and places that we have been fortunate enough to experience since hitting the road full time in June of 2016.

Originally created as a printed promo for me to send out to all of my current and prospective clients, I was pouring so much time and energy into this project, it became clear to me that this would be interesting to a broader audience. And since I was trying to create a standout piece for photo editors, it’s really rad and well done, if I do say so myself.

These are just a few sample spreads…

What you can expect are poignant stories of the people we’ve met, our experiences leading up to and during our time on the road, traveling recipes, poetic prose, and of course, lots of pretty pictures from all over this great country of ours. Consider it a welcomed addition to your coffee table, or bathroom reading collection. It is sure to start conversations, and might even be that unique gift that you’ve been looking for.

If you’re interested, it’s on pre-sale right now for just $25. Go check it out and order your copies now!

–Andrew


Ellen and I hit the road full-time in June of 2016. We are on a mission to inspire and educate everyone on the importance of getting outside. Check out my workshops and my prints, made #ontheroad in my mobile print studio. The revenue will help propel us further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our public lands are cherished and to keep the wild spirit of the American Dream alive. Our goal is to visit all 59 National Parks in 3-5 years. LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT WE’RE DOING HERE



N O M A D  Magazine // Issue 1
 
Pre-order your copy today and receive this 80+ page full color travelgasm at your door by June 2019!
 
Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
PHOTO 101 // LEARN TO SHOOT LIKE A PRO // SELECT CITIES // USA
GRAND TETON // FALL COLOR // LANDSCAPES + WILDLIFE
TELLURIDE // FALL COLOR // LUXE LANDSCAPES
 
I’m excited to announce The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Teton National Park
 
If you are interested in purchasing a “print from the road”, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew Slaton // prints from the road
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew Slaton
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2019

Park Peek // A SUPER BLOOM in Joshua Tree

We visited Joshua Tree National Park for the first time in October 2017. I knew right then that it would be a “home” park for us. Ellen and I are both drawn to the desert, and Joshua Tree is a unique blend of Mojave and Colorado deserts. It is where the two meet, and mingle.

When we decided to do a desert tour, instead of our usual winter in Florida, Joshua Tree came to mind one of our focus areas. I knew there was BLM land close by, which for full-time nomads is like finding flowing water in the desert. We can camp for free (for nearly as long as we’d like) just outside the park. Little did I realize when planning that we would be arriving just in time for a rare experience, the 2019 super bloom.

It has been truly spectacular to witness this once in a decade event here in Joshua Tree. The lupines, sunflowers, poppies, and countless other species have been popping up everywhere.

  

  

But I assure you, there is much more to this huge park than just wildflowers. It is approximately 800k acres of desert and mountain terrain.

There are of course incredible vistas.

Amazing night skies.

Hidden desert gems.

Cholla cactus gardens, treacherous and beautiful.

And of course, the otherworldly Joshua Trees, for which the park is named.

I like to try to combine several elements for which the park is famous, all in one photo, if possible.

We’re here for a few more weeks, so I know I will have much more to show all of you… this is just a preview of what I’ve seen and experienced.

It’s a fascinating park. And one that I know will take me many years to fully explore. Good thing Ellen and I have both fallen for this massive desert parkland in the heart of Southern California.

–Andrew


Ellen and I hit the road full-time in June of 2016. We are on a mission to inspire and educate everyone on the importance of getting outside. Check out my workshops and my prints, made #ontheroad in my mobile print studio. The revenue will help propel us further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our public lands are cherished and to keep the wild spirit of the American Dream alive. Our goal is to visit all 59 National Parks in 3-5 years. LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT WE’RE DOING HERE



Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
PHOTO 101 // LEARN TO SHOOT LIKE A PRO // SELECT CITIES // USA
GRAND TETON // FALL COLOR // LANDSCAPES + WILDLIFE
TELLURIDE // FALL COLOR // LUXE LANDSCAPES
 
I’m excited to announce my “The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Teton National Park
 
If you are interested in purchasing a “print from the road”, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew Slaton // prints from the road
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew Slaton
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2019

N O M A D // no 7

We only have so many summers so get out there and live.”

The towering rocks of Sedona were glowing red when the sun rose over the Verde River. The meandering rivers and endless red rock faces are what Jef (@jefalope) lives for. He’s the quintessential climber dirtbag / river rat, and a man of few words. He’s a leading guide for multi day backpacking in the Grand Canyon. He’s also a rafting guide for rivers all over the southwest, and in the off season, he picks up odd jobs from friends.

“Guiding life takes me all over the country for work. My free time is spent heading to climb between seasonal work.”

Jef lives in his 50 square foot ’92 Ford Micro Schooly. For the uninitiated, that’s a converted short bus. He’s been living in it for nearly two years.

He told me the story of how this home on wheels came to be… and I’m paraphrasing here.

“It was when the Super Bowl came to Arizona. Bud Light made this party bus, so it had wrap around couches and a stripper pole in the middle. And of course Bud Light branding all over the exterior. They didn’t need it anymore after the game, I guess, and they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.”

  

I haven’t really had any hardships. Yet. You live in the elements every day. It just becomes natural.  I guess saying good by to new friends along the way is the hardest part, but you usually see them at the next crag.”

He tells me that he loves the freedom this lifestyle provides, and how it’s made him better at all the activities he loves. “As a guide you travel a lot. If you want to be a strong climber, you have to climb. Being mobile I can be at the crag for multiple days.”

His schooly has small mementoes and trinkets strewn throughout, but he singles out two feathers that were given to him.

“The Turkey feather is from my friend who’s mother just passed. The eagle is from Garrett, who mentored my into professional guiding. I couldn’t have done it with out him.”

  

I ask him if there’s anything he misses about the “traditional” lifestyle, he simply replies,

“No not really. I have a way better view now.”

And when asked how long he plans to do this, he simply states,

“I hope as long as possible. I have everything I need.”


Ellen and I hit the road full-time in June of 2016. We are on a mission to inspire and educate everyone on the importance of getting outside. Check out my workshops and my prints, made #ontheroad in my mobile print studio. The revenue will help propel us further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our public lands are cherished and to keep the wild spirit of the American Dream alive. Our goal is to visit all 59 National Parks in 3-5 years. LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT WE’RE DOING HERE



Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
BIG BEND// WILDFLOWERS + STARS
PHOTO 101 // LEARN TO SHOOT LIKE A PRO // SELECT CITIES // USA
GRAND TETON // FALL COLOR // LANDSCAPES + WILDLIFE
 
I’m excited to announce my “The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Teton National Park
 
If you are interested in purchasing a “print from the road”, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew Slaton // prints from the road
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2019